Yesterday most of us watched Super Bowl 50. In the week leading up to the big game, we heard story after story debating Cam Newton’s so-called “lack of class”. Much of the controversy surrounded Cam’s handling of the “12th Man” flag that a Seattle fan brought into the Carolina stadium at the NFC Championship Game a couple weeks back. This “shameful” act has sparked a national debate: Is Cam Newton “classless”, or is he harmlessly just having fun? Is his outgoing personality and propensity to celebrate good for the game or bad for the game?
Glancing at the crawl at the bottom of ESPN last week, I read that something like 34% of people think the criticism Cam receives is racially motivated, and the percentage is higher among African Americans. My first thought was, “there must really be some people with a ton of extra time on their hands, to create, distribute and reply to this survey.” My second thought was, “why does ESPN feel like this is interesting or newsworthy? Nothing really happened here.” I suppose the media outlets understand that when we can introduce race into the conversation it gets people talking, debating, and from their perspective, watching all the ESPN programs which feature people endlessly talking and debating.
I became aware of the letter (pictured above), in which an outraged Seattle fan publicly condemned Newton’s actions with respect to the 12th Man flag. Reading this letter, feeling this person’s indignation, I began to feel something too. Bear with me as I climb up onto my high horse here, but I began to feel like we live in a world with real problems, and Cam Newton playfully grabbing a flag of the opposing (and visiting) team is way, way down the list.
It would be great if the thousands of people who were so outraged because a man threw a flag on the ground would feel the same type of rage about something like the fact that we have 25% of American children living in poverty. (Here’s a 60 Minutes piece on that topic). We’ll take a look at the children in poverty issue in an upcoming post.
It would be great to channel all that Seattle anger at a real problem. You might not care for Cam Newton. He might be too flashy for your personal taste. You might feel like football players don’t need to dance and celebrate every first down. But let’s get real. This is not a problem. We have problems out there. Maybe we could work to fix those, and leave Cam Newton alone to celebrate, dance and grab flags in peace. Get over yourself Seattle.